CRM systems record customer interactions in a highly structured way so that we can measure them as data – but what can the unstructured data tell us about the customer experience?

Businesses across all industries are gathering and measuring more and more data each day. CRM platforms use pre-defined fields as a way of capturing data and translating it for us, so that we can learn vital information about customer interactions and behaviour. This is important for ensuring that customer-facing teams are geared up for delivering the best possible service, armed with valuable knowledge.

This structured and primarily numerical data, however, only actually accounts for 20% of the overall information captured from customer interactions. The rest, appropriately named by the data storage industry as ‘unstructured data’, refers to everything else. This means that all text-based information sources such as email, social media interactions and free-text surveys, can often remain largely isolated.

This type of data is vast, and processing it requires time and resources. So why should we bother? Because ultimately, unstructured data, as broad and unrefined as it seems, can hold vital information about the customer journey.

Although the structured data we are used to measuring can tell us a lot about what is happening, unstructured data can tell us even more about why, and understanding it can be the key to influencing the way processes are handled.

Once organisations begin to view unstructured data as a measurable source, they can gain insight into areas of customer interest that wouldn’t be possible through traditional methods of analytics. Reviewing conversations on social media and analysing call centre transcripts can identify patterns, trends, and perhaps most importantly, areas in need of improvement.

Tapping into this qualitative information can also offer up opportunities to make connections between various data sources, including structured data within the CRM. By processing and categorising all available information about the customer experience, organisations can use the findings to create intuitive and actionable insights.

Top tips for analysing unstructured data:

  • Set up an automated process to capture the data as it happens, such as social media monitoring tool Hootsuite, or an internal RSS feed
  • Identify areas of interest to customers and consolidate the information into relevant categories
  • Feed all consolidated data into the CRM system, and compare with traditional structured data
  • Identify trends and patterns within the aggregated data.

Analysing a data deluge as vast as unstructured data can seem like a daunting task to businesses. But by pulling together all sources of information available, and translating them into a more analytics-friendly format through consolidation, organisations can gain a clearer and more complete picture of the customer experience.

Through this insight, companies can then begin to fully understand, and ultimately, better support and respond to customer needs.

 

By Stephen Pickett, Professional Services Director at Experience Assist. 


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